Production of copper, key to Zambia's economic growth, has been gradually declining in Africa's second-largest producer of the metal even as the government targets lifting output to about 3 million tons within the decade.

Copper output slumped to 698,000 tons in 2023 from 763,000 tons the previous year, data from the Zambia Chamber of Mines showed.

Production could also get a boost from Mopani Copper Mines, which recently secured a new investor, and the revival of Konkola Copper Mines (KCM) after the state resolved an ownership dispute with Indian miner Vedanta Resources.

"The two mining giants (Mopani and KCM) were out of the equation, now they are back," Musokotwane said on Lusaka-based radio station Radio Phoenix.

Ongoing investments in expanding output at First Quantum's Kansanshi mine are also expected to support the rise in metals output, Musokotwane said.

Canadian rival Barrick Gold said last year it was spending about $2 billion to drive up output at its Lumwana mine in Zambia to about 240,000 tons of copper by 2028.

The United Arab Emirates' International Resources Holding (IRH) pledged to invest $1.1 billion to expand output at Mopani mines after buying a 51% stake in the copper assets previously owned by Glencore.

Zambia is also hoping that fresh investment helps increase mining activities at KCM after operations were nearly paralyzed following an ownership dispute with Vedanta that had dragged on since 2019, when the then government attempted to seize the assets.

"So by end of 2025 to 2026, we will be producing more than a million tons of copper," the finance minister said.

(Reporting by Chris Mfula; Additional reporting by Felix Njini; Editing by Devika Syamnath)